Broad Spectrum--Celebrating Diversity in Veterinary Medicine
Posted May 24, 2017
What started off as a plain t-shirt with a simple logo on the
front and the words “stand up for diversity” on the back soon
became a work of art. Students at the Texas A&M College of
Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) gathered at the
annual “Show Your Colors” event to tie-dye shirts. But, the
exercise was more than a social event. Instead, it highlighted how
different people—and their colors—can come together and create
“The various colors come together and make something beautiful.
Even though we’re all unique, we share many similarities,” said
Angela Harrington, a fourth-year veterinary student.
The Show Your Colors event is hosted by Broad Spectrum and
reflects the mission of the student-led organization. The aptly
named student group has positioned itself as an umbrella
organization, open to those of all sexual orientations and gender
identities, including allies who may not consider themselves
members of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender (GLBT)
In addition to celebrating diversity, the group raises awareness
about GLBT issues in the veterinary community. It not only provides
a safe space, but also educates others about the important role of
the GLBT community in veterinary medicine.
“We are here for everyone who has been different or has been
bullied, or doesn’t feel like they fit in,” said Harrington, who is
also the former president and 4vm representative of Broad Spectrum.
“If you just want to come support and be our friend, that’s what
we’re here for too.”
New Name, New Focus
Students tie-dying shirts at the "Show Your Colors" event.
Formerly the Lesbian and Gay Veterinary Medical Association or
GLBT Vets, Broad Spectrum rebranded themselves in 2015 to better
reflect their mission of inclusiveness and diversity. The group was
particularly interested in expanding their reach to the ally
population. “Most of our membership is from allies, so we do really
count on that support,” said Harrington. “We also wanted to include
faculty that wanted to be supportive of Broad Spectrum.”
As hoped, this rebranding attracted a number of new members.
“We’ve always had difficulty getting people involved, especially
from the ally population, but we were very encouraged by the result
of the Show Your Colors event,” said Broad Spectrum President
Harrington, who has been involved in the group since her first
year of veterinary school, has seen this transformation first hand.
“In my first year, there wasn’t a lot of involvement,” she said.
“There has been more interest over the past two years. We have a
lot of people saying ‘Hey, I want to get involved. How do I do
That supportive spirit is what has motivated many of the group’s
members to become involved. Harrington initially joined the group
in the hopes of finding friendship, and then became a
representative of the group as a first year veterinary student.
Similarly, former treasurer Sarah White joined the group to show
her support. “I really joined the group to find solidarity,” she
said. “I’ve talked to a lot of people that say, ‘Oh, that’s just
for gay people.’ Well no, it’s not just for gay people. It’s for
anybody that wants to take a stand and show solidarity with a
minority on this campus.”
In many ways, Broad Spectrum is like other student groups. Its
members attend field trips, socials, and educational events. In
particular, the group is actively involved with Chimp Haven, the
national chimpanzee sanctuary. They take field trips to Chimp Haven
and support regular donation drives.
Being More Inclusive
One goal at the forefront of Broad Spectrum is to raise
awareness about the importance of GLBT issues in veterinary
medicine. Although these subjects seem unrelated, Hardegree points
out that 78.5 percent of members of the GLBT community are pet
owners. Additionally, they are likely to spend more money on their
pets than their straight counterparts—as much as $300 to $432 on
pet products per year.
Hardegree, who is also the president of the national Broad
Spectrum Veterinary Student Association Board, has been actively
involved in getting this message out. In 2015, he began working to
refocus the mission of Broad Spectrum on raising awareness within
the veterinary community at that year’s Association of American
Veterinary Medical Colleges conference.
Broad Spectrum’s other officers agree that there are certainly
financial reasons for being more inclusive. “I can’t imagine that
any person would make a decision to exclude gay, bi, or lesbian
people from their practice, because it’s a poor financial decision,
as well as not a very kind decision either,” White said.
Members of Broad Spectrum suggest that small gestures go far
when it comes to making a veterinary practice GLBT friendly. White
said, “Just doing small things, like putting a small rainbow flag
in your doorway, help. Most people won’t realize that it’s even
there, and the people who it does matter to will notice.”
There are numbers of other ways that veterinarians can be more
inclusive. Harrington noted the importance of diverse veterinary
staff. “Diversity is beyond just clients and veterinarians;
diversity includes technicians, receptionists, and others. I think
that’s an area that we all need to focus on.”
Additionally, Harrington suggested diversifying whom
veterinarians mentor. “If veterinarians have opportunities to
mentor people who are minorities or part of the LGBT community, it
would be great to reach out to those students because it can be
difficult to be that student.”
The Future of Diversity
Broad Spectrum officers after "Show Your Colors" event.
Students, faculty, and staff can take the lessons learned from
Broad Spectrum beyond the CVM. Diversity can be implemented
everywhere. In particular, Broad Spectrum stresses the importance
of emphasizing diversity at all levels of the veterinary
practice—something students can take with them after
“For veterinarians who plan on going into private practice, I
think these things we learn about diversity are important because
the more experiences you have with different people, the more you
learn about the world, and to me that is the most important thing,”
Putting diversity into practice after veterinary school is not
just something the officers in Broad Spectrum say, it’s something
they plan to do. Many of the members of Broad Spectrum plan on
continuing their work on GLBT issues in veterinary medicine after
White imagined how she will implement diversity in her future
career. “Maybe I can make the staff that are already there aware of
how important it is, and provide a safe place because the GLBT
employee population is so important to foster,” she said. “The last
thing I want is to have someone who wants to go to veterinary
school be turned away because they don’t fit in, or discourage
themselves from pursuing veterinary medicine because they think
that the field is too closed minded.”
Hardegree said he hopes for a career in veterinary education and
sees himself being involved in organizations similar to Broad
Spectrum in the future. Likewise, Harrington also said she plans on
continuing her work in GLBT issues and diversity.
In reflecting on how far the field has come, Harrington looks to
the future with hope. “Diversity is not something that people were
talking about 20 or 30 years ago,” she said. “When my mother went
to veterinary school, it was predominately male. There’s been a
By working toward increased inclusiveness, members of Broad
Spectrum hope to continue the shift toward a more diverse community
at the CVM and beyond.
For more information about the Texas A&M College of
Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our
website at vetmed.tamu.edu or
join us on Facebook
, and Twitter.
Contact Information: Megan Palsa, Executive Director of
Communications, Media & Public Relations, Texas A&M College
of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science; firstname.lastname@example.org
; 979-862-4216; 979-421-3121 (cell)
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